Since he began his professional career in 1995, Manny Pacquiao has developed a rocket-like straight left hand, a solid right hook, and side-to-side movement that can make spectators dizzy. But the Filipino’s best weapon against 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton on Saturday may be a natural one: his southpaw stance.
Hatton has struggled with southpaw opponents his entire career. Though undefeated against lefties, “the Hitman” has had several close encounters against less-than-spectacular lefty opponents. Pacquiao, a sometimes awkward southpaw who throw punches from unconventional angles, would be wise to follow the steps other Hatton lefty opponents have paved before him.
In October of 2000, Hatton took on aggressive British southpaw Johnathon Thaxton in his toughest fight to date. In a rugged 12-round fight in which both men landed bombs, Hatton prevailed on a close 117-113 points win. But Hatton was severely cut over his left eye in the first round, and Thaxton, a tough but limited fighter, was able to inflict significant damage throughout the bout.
Just two years later, Hatton fought lefty Eammonn Magee and was floored for the first time in his career by a right hook in the first round.
In May of 2006, Hatton, making his welterweight debut, fought against the smooth and awkward southpaw Luis Collazo for a paper 147-pound title.
Relatively unknown at the time, Collazo came into the match hungry and eager to prove he could bang with boxing’s best. Because he was a natural welterweight, Collazo and his handlers thought the chance to face Hatton would be a coming out party for the Brooklyn resident.
Hatton started the bout with a bang, landing a ferocious left hook on Collazo’s skull and flooring the then 25 year-old fifteen seconds into the bout. Hatton’s aggression allowed him to win the fight’s first three rounds, but Collazo found his rhythm in the middle of the bout, using his fast hands and lateral movement to offset his foe’s timing and pepper him with numerous blows.
In an ugly final third of the fight, Hatton dug down deep, hitting and holding Collazo enough to steal rounds on the judges’ scorecards. Hatton won the match by a close, but unanimous decision. Many people thought Collazo’s combination punching and slick defense were enough for him to win the bout.
Hatton returned to 140 pounds eight months later to take on the rugged Juan Urango on the same card as Jose Luis Castillo’s bout against upstart Herman Ndgodu. The two fights were used as a publicity tool for a potential Hatton-Castillo bout later in the year.
Obviously in fantastic shape, Hatton battered Urango during the first half of the fight with quick combos and vicious body punching.
But in the seventh round, Urango came back, banging Hatton to the body with fierce hooks. The blows literally moved Hatton backwards.
Although Hatton was able to hit and grab his way through the next five rounds and win the fight comfortably, he looked significantly slower and weaker after taking Urango’s punishment.
Pacquiao possesses the same skills that Thaxton, Macgee, Collazo, and Urango used to give Hatton problems, save the slickness of Collazo. “Pacman’s” aggression is both tenacious and effective, his right hook is quick and powerful, his side-to-side movement may unmatched by anyone in boxing, and his body punching is lethal. Using these tools, Pacquiao could very well cut Hatton, floor him with a right hand, confuse him with constant movement, or slow him with body punches.
It’s a good thing Pacquiao wasn’t born an orthodox fighter.